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The Pioneer Press and the Klamath Courier at the very top of the State of California, grants permission for this article to be copied and forwarded.

Pioneer Press, Fort Jones, California Published in Klamath Courier July 13, 2005 Vol. 3, No. 29 Page 1, column 1
 
Gold miners get to work
 
 Recreationalists enjoy use of public Forest lands

By Liz Bowen, Pioneer Press Assistant Editor

 
SISKIYOU COUNTY -- This time the Forest Service won.

In a lawsuit brought by the Karuk Tribe of California, the Tribe lost.

And the individuals that would have been hurt the most, added weight as
a third party, and won most of their arguments in the case.
The men and women, who do gold suction dredging as a recreational
activity in the Klamath National Forest, were the target of the lawsuit.

Toz Soto and Leaf Hillman of the Karuk Tribe provided testimony claiming
destruction of river banks, streams and wildlife habitat. In Soto's
declaration to the court, he claimed that species of animals that are
listed with the federal Endangered Species Act, are harmed by the
small-time mining activities.

Both the Forest Service and the miners were able to provide information
regarding Soto's and Hillman's declarations and much of their testimony
was stricken from the record by the presiding U.S. Judge, Saundra Brown
Armstrong.

In her final judgement, Judge Armstrong agreed with the Forest Service
that the Karuk Tribe had not established that "Mr. Soto is an expert,
qualified to offer testimony concerning, scientific, technical or other
specialized matters of expertise."

Soto had described certain mining activities such as "highbanking," that
the judge said had no revelance to the actual litigation of the case.
Judge Armstrong ruled that the Notice of Intent to mine does not
"trigger" aspects of the Endangered Species Act. The Karuk's maintained
that the possibility of harming endangered-listed species, should invoke
the National Environmental Policy Act, which would cost the Forest
Service and the gold miners $1,000s to create Environmental Assessments
or Environmental Impact Statements.

The judge agreed that Happy Camp District Ranger, Alan Vandiver,
developed an extensive series of recommendations  providing better
protection for fisheries, including sensitive species.

The record of information from the Forest Service and the gold miners,
as a third party, showed that the Karuk Tribe had been consulted
regarding the suction dredge mining activities and had responded to
concerns.

On Feb. 1, 2004, Forest Service District Rangers for the Klamath
National Forest and Six Rivers National Forest met to discuss problems
and solutions with mining. On March 22, 2004, District Rangers met with
the Karuk Tribe and the New 49ers, the local recreational mining group.
Evaluations and concerns were discussed with solutions agreed upon. The
49ers said they would limit their dredges to 10 per day along the 35
mile stretch of the rivers.

On May 17, 2004, there was another meeting with the Karuks to discuss
additional fisheries issues.

So the miners were surprised, when on Oct. 8, 2004, the Karuks filed
their complaint (lawsuit) against the Forest Service that would stop
gold suction dredging if the Karuks were to win.

The Karuks alleged that the Forest Service was violating the National
Environmental Protection Act, Endangered Species Act and Northwest
Forest Management Act.

But in this instance, the federal court did not agree.

Suction dredge mining is a seasonal activity in the Klamath National
Forest and the decision by Judge Armstrong came just in time. July 1 is
the beginning of the season and the decision came on July 1.

Miners were anxious over the decision, because a win by the Karuks would
have placed heavy environmental assessment costs on each project. For
most of the miners, it would have made their activity prohibitive.

 


 

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